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STAR (SITUATION OR TASK, ACTION, RESULT) TECHNIQUE
BEHAVIORAL INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
COMMON INTERVIEW QUESTIONS
QUESTIONS TO ASK EMPLOYERS
QUESTIONS ASKED FOR GRADUATE SCHOOL ADMISSION
PHONE INTERVIEW TIPS
"Tell me about a time when you had to work in a team and one of the members was difficult to get along with."
If you hear a question like this, you are being asked a behavioral interview question. In the interview process you can either have an entire interview that is behavior-based, or more commonly, you will be asked behavioral interview questions along with more traditional interview questions.
Behavioral interviewing is based on the principle that future behavior is best determined by assessing past behavior in similar situations. In other words, past behavior predicts future success. An interviewer will ask you to provide a specific example of a situation in the past in order to determine if you are a fit for the role.
Traditional interview questions will ask you "what if" types of questions. They do not require you to call upon your past experiences, and are often thought of as easier to answer. The interviewer is assessing your thought process as opposed to your behavior.
Behavioral questions usually start off with, "Tell me about a time when…", "Give me an example of…" or "Describe a time when…"
The best way to gear up for behavioral interviewing is to prepare in advance several 30– to 90–second skills–based stories. Each of these "career stories" should focus on demonstrating a relevant skill to the desired position. Remember that many behavioral questions probe for your response to negative situations. You will need to have examples of negative experiences ready. But, try to choose negative experiences that you made the best of – or better yet – those that had positive outcomes.
Here's a good way to prepare for behavior–based interviews:
Situation or Task
Describe a situation or a task you needed to accomplish. You must describe a specific event or situation, not a generalized description of what you have done in the past. Be sure to give enough detail for the interviewer to understand. This situation can be from a previous job, from a volunteer experience, or any relevant event.
Action you took
Describe the action(s) you took, identifying skills utilized. Don't tell what you might do, tell what you did do. Even if you are discussing a group project or effort, describe what you did –– not the efforts of the team. The focus should be on your skills and actions.
Results you achieved
What happened? How did the event end? What did you accomplish? What did you learn? Focus on positive results.
Use examples from internships, classes and school projects, activities, team participation, community service, hobbies and work experience as examples of your past behavior. In addition, you may use examples of special accomplishments, whether personal or professional, such as scoring the winning touchdown, being elected president of your Greek organization, winning a prize for your artwork, or raising money for charity. Wherever possible, quantify your results. Numbers always impress employers.
Remember, listen carefully to each question asked of you and respond with a specific and detailed example. With experience, you can learn to tailor your examples to several different behavioral questions.
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths?
Tell me about a weakness/area of improvement.
What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?
Define success. Failure.
Describe your ideal job.
What was the last book you read?
Why did you choose to attend UIC?
Why did you choose your major?
How has your college experience prepared you for this job?
Do your grades accurately reflect your ability? Why or why not?
What have you gained from your extracurricular activities that will enable your success in our company?
What did you enjoy most about your last employment? Least?
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
Describe a project or situation that best demonstrated your (career-related) abilities?
Tell me about a team project in which you are particularly proud and describe your contribution.
Give me an example of a problem you solve and the process you used.
Tell me about a situation in which you showed initiative.
Describe a time when you were not satisfied or pleased with your performance. What did you do about it?
Tell me about a time when you had to handle multiple responsibilities and how you managed the situation.
Give me an example of an important goal that you had set and tell me about your success in reaching it.
Give me an example of a time when you had a deadline to meet and how you handled the pressure.
Describe one of the biggest mistakes you made in college. What did you learn?
Tell me about a time when you had to work with someone who was difficult and how you handled it.
How do you think a former supervisor would describe you?
How will you prepare for the transition from college to the workplace?
What characteristics do you think are important for this position?
How did you manage work and school?
What do you see yourself doing in five years? Ten years?
What goals have you set for yourself? How are you planning to achieve them?
Do you plan to continue your education?
Describe your ideal work environment.
Why are you interested in this position?
What attracts you to our organization, and why do you want to work here?
Why do you think you'll be a good fit for this company?
Do you prefer to work under supervision or on your own?
What kind of boss do you prefer?
Are you considering other positions? What types?
How do you feel about working overtime?
Why should we hire you over other qualified candidates?
What questions do you have for me?
It is common at the end of the interview for an employer to ask, "Do you have any questions?" Remember, it's a two-way street, and you should ALWAYS have questions. This conveys your enthusiasm for the organization and engagement with your interviewer(s) – not having questions could negatively impact your chances. Prepare 3 questions to ask should one be answered in the course of the interview. At least one should be a unique, genuine question you developed from company research in preparing for the interview. Below are sample questions, but remember to shape your questions to the position.
Sample Questions What are the challenging facets of this job? Are there specific challenges you are facing right now?
How do you see my role evolving in the first two years?
What would you like to be able to say about your new hire a year from now?
What are your organization's plans for future growth?
What are your company's strengths and greatest assets?
What do you enjoy most about working here?
How would you describe the culture of your organization?
Tell me about your own career path/progression within the company. Would this reflect prospects for growth and advancement in my role?
Could you describe a typical day/week in this position?
How will we work together to establish objectives and deadlines in the first months of this job?
What would you most like to see change in the department?
How much travel should I expect to do in a typical month?
Are there many after-hours business events I will be expected to attend?
If I am extended a job offer, how soon would you like me to start?
What is the next step in the hiring process?
When do you expect to make a final decision and fill the position?
Interview Questions NOT to Ask
Tell me about yourself.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
If you're not accepted into graduate school, what are your plans?
Why did you choose this career?
What do you know about our program?
Why did you choose to apply to our program?
What other schools are you considering?
In what ways have your previous experience prepared you for graduate study in our program?
What do you believe your greatest challenge will be if you are accepted into this program?
In college, what courses did you enjoy the most? The least? Why?
Describe any research project you've worked on. What was the purpose of the project and what was your role in the project?
How would your professors describe you?
How will you be able to make a contribution to this field?
Explain a situation in which you had a conflict and how you resolved it. What would you do differently?
Describe your greatest accomplishment.
Tell me about your experience in this field. What was challenging? What was your contribution?
What are your career goals? How will this program help you achieve your goals?
How do you intend to finance your education?
What skills do you bring to the program? How will you help your mentor in his or her research?
Interview Questions Specifically for Medical School Admission (or other health related fields)
Why do you want to be a doctor?
How did you select this school and why do you want to attend?
How are you a match for our medical school?
What other medical schools have you applied to?
Explain the poor grades on your transcript/low MCAT scores.
What is your biggest concern about entering medical school?
If you are accepted to multiple schools, how will you make your decision?
How did you prepare for the MCAT? Are you satisfied with your scores?
How will you pay for your medical school education?
Which field of medicine are you interested in?
What kind of experiences do you have in the medical field?
How do you know you will make a good doctor?
There are 1,000 applicants as qualified as you are. Why should we choose you?
What do you have to offer to our school?
If you want to "help people", why not a career in social work, law, or teaching?
What is your relationship with your family?
If your best friend were asked to describe you, what would he or she say?
Name something you are most proud of.
Have you taken a leadership role in such an activity? How involved were you? How did you help the organization?
Discuss a book that you recently read for pleasure. Why does this book interest you?
What do you do in your spare time?
As with any other type of interview, the key to successful telephone interviews is preparation.
BEFORE THE CALL:
Provide the interviewer with a land line phone number to call, if at all possible. While you may have your cell phone number on your resume, the reception on a land line will be much clearer, and you eliminate the risk of your call being dropped. Disable call waiting on your phone as well.
Ensure that you will be in a quiet place where you will be undisturbed by other phone calls, street noise, pets or children.
Review your resume, the cover letter you sent, and the job description the day before the interview. It may have been several weeks since your initial contact, and you want to be very clear in your own mind about your fit with the position and the value you can add to the organization.
Write down strengths you have related to the position and personal qualities you wish to emphasize. These are almost universal topics that are covered in interviews, and having them written down can help you to answer those questions more easily.
Also write down one or more "weaknesses." These questions can best be answered by reframing them as potential areas of growth for you, for example that you have had some opportunity to learn about (insert topic here) but that you are eager to learn more.
Write down 3-5 questions that you wish to ask at the end of the interview. You may think of additional follow-up questions during the interview, but it's essential to have a few prepared ahead of time so that you don't blank out when asked this question at the end of a fatiguing interview.
Do some additional research on the organization to find out the latest news. Being able to incorporate this into your interview shows a keen interest in the position, and attention to detail.
Have all your documents at hand for reference. This includes your cover letter, résumé, portfolio materials, and the job description, plus a pad of paper and a pen. Having ready access to these materials is one advantage of telephone interviews!
If given a choice of dates, avoid Monday mornings and Friday afternoons, when interviewers may not be at their most attentive.
Get dressed! You may think you can do this in your pajamas, but you will sound more professional if dressed as such.
DURING YOUR INTERVIEW:
Walk around and smile while you speak. Doing both of these will make you sound more energized and positive, and at the same time will help to release tension and increase your comfort level.
Listen carefully to your interviewers' questions. Don't hesitate to clarify if you did not catch exactly what was asked. If your interviewer is using a speakerphone it can sometimes be hard to understand.
If you need a moment to think, interviewers will understand. They prefer a pause followed by a concise, coherent answer to an immediate but rambling response. Repeating the question is recognized as a stalling tactic.
Take brief notes if it helps you to feel more in control. Have a pad of paper and a pen on a table so that you can walk over to it and write notes if you choose to.
Offer brief but specific examples to illustrate any points that you are making. Remember the acronym C-A-R: Challenge, Action, Result. What challenge did you face, what action did you take, and what was the positive result?
Don't: use a speakerphone, eat, smoke or chew gum. A sip of water occasionally is fine.
Make sure you have the name of each person on the call so that you can follow up with a thank you note within 48 hours. Use your thank you notes as an opportunity to elaborate on an answer you did feel captured everything you wanted to say, or to provide important information about you that did not come up during the interview.
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